Politics & Government

Stacey Abrams has her eyes on Georgia as she focuses on fighting voter suppression

Here are 5 facts about Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams was Georgia's first female gubernatorial nominee when she won the state's Democratic primary in 2018, according to The Associated Press. Learn more about her in this video.
Up Next
Stacey Abrams was Georgia's first female gubernatorial nominee when she won the state's Democratic primary in 2018, according to The Associated Press. Learn more about her in this video.

Georgia will play a key role in 2020 elections, and Stacey Abrams told The Telegraph that her home state can help set an example for the rest of the country come voting time.

Abrams, the 2018 Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate, launched Fair Fight 2020 last week. The new nationwide voter protection program was fueled in part by her persistent charges of voter suppression in the race against now-Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican.

“Georgia is a battleground state in 2020. Not just for the presidency,” she said. “(Georgia) is an important metric in how we are moving forward as a country. That’s why we are launching our Fair Fight 2020 Georgia event in Gwinnett County. ...We want to showcase just how vibrant Georgia is and how important it is going into this election cycle.”

There is still work to be done in Georgia as recent steps to change state’s election processes still have not adequately addressed the issues, Abrams said.

Fair Fight 2020 will run “laser-focused” voter protection operations in 20 states.

“It’s an opportunity to have not just a national conversation but a national operation to ensure that every eligible American has access to the right to vote,” she told the Telegraph. “That is more important than any single job and any single ambition. I’m first and foremost an American, and I believe in the right to vote.”

The initiative will work with Democratic state parties or local allies to support and fund programs in 17 states ahead of the 2020 elections: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The group is also funding operations for 2019 statewide elections in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi. Georgia’s Fair Fight 2020 campaign launched Saturday in Snellville, a racially diverse community east of Atlanta.

Leftover issues to address

Issues with Georgia’s election systems received national attention during the hotly contested governor’s race in 2018 where Abrams referred Kemp as an “architect of voter suppression,” CNN reports.

Kemp won Georgia’s governorship by about 55,000 votes. Abrams has spent the past year addressing issues she says prevented her from winning and ”failed” Georgia residents.

Abrams and her allies launched Fair Fight Action after her 2018 defeat in an effort to ensure fair elections through legal action. Among the most publicized effort is the lawsuit Fair Fight Action, along with several other entities, filed against Georgia election officials, alleging they “grossly mismanaged” the 2018 election and “deprived Georgia citizens, and particularly citizens of color, of their fundamental right to vote.”

Fair Fight Action is separate from Fair Fight 2020 and her allies’ other efforts in legislation and advocacy initiatives.

The state has made some changes.

In 2019, Kemp has signed into law two bills that would, among other things, give voters more notice before they are removed from voting rolls and pave the way for the purchase of new voting machines which state election officials hope will be in use statewide in early 2020.

A federal judge in a separate case regarding Georgia’s voting system ruled Thursday the state could no longer use its old, paperless touchscreen machines after this year. The secretary of state’s office must also develop a plan to address “errors and discrepancies in the voter registration database,” NPR reports.

Plaintiffs in that 2017 lawsuit say the new voting machines suffer from the same vulnerabilities as the old ones. The new election system prints a human-readable summary of a voter’s selection and a machine-readable bar code to count the votes. Critics argue voters have to trust the code actually reflects their selections, the Associated Press reports.

Abrams told The Telegraph that more work still needs to be done in Georgia.

“Those are important first steps but they are not nearly enough,” Abrams said of the legislative changes to Georgia’s voter system. “We still have to address the fundamentals of how elections are conducted in the state of Georgia. ... We have to ensure we have a voter database that is accurate.”

In an interview with CNN, Abrams left open the possibility of accepting a vice presidential nomination in 2020. She may also challenge Kemp again in 2022.

“I do not know what I am going to do next,” she told the The Telegraph. “My focus is on how do we make certain that … our voters are protected. ... If we can fight back voter suppression, the fight will be fair. The person who wins will be the person who wins based on the merits and not based on the shenanigans and the manipulation of our voter system.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly described Georgia’s new voting machines. The new election system prints a human-readable summary of a voter’s selection and a machine-readable bar code to count the votes.

Nick Wooten is the Southern Trends and Culture reporter for McClatchy’s South region. He is based in Columbus, Georgia at the Ledger-Enquirer but his work also appears in The (Macon) Telegraph and The Sun Herald in Biloxi.Before joining McClatchy, he worked for The (Shreveport La.) Times covering city government and investigations. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
  Comments